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Durham Program Trains Adults To Recognize Signs of Child Abuse

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DURHAM — Many communities have neighborhood watch programs, but people in Durham are putting a new twist on the old idea.

Officers will soon have extra eyes looking out for Durham's children. Police will train residents to spot signs of child abuse and offer safe havens to victims.

Durham Police Sgt. Mike Montgomery is investigating hundreds of reports of child abuse -- and those are only the cases police know about. Montgomery hopes the new training program will help police identify dangerous situations before it is too late.

"If you see a child that has bruises, or you know a parent is mistreating a child, make a telephone call," Montgomery said. "That's all it takes."

Harold Chestnut heads Durham's Partners Against Crime group. He volunteered for the new program after hearing about the rape of a 4-year-old girl.

Chestnut's home could become one of the program's "safe houses" -- a place where young victims of abuse can talk to an adult they trust.

"It's an excellent idea when the neighborhood can watch kids, and the kids have somewhere to go if there's a problem," Chestnut said.

Volunteers and police say the new neighborhood watch idea is important because what happens in the home affects the entire community.

"Often times we see repeat offenders in the juvenile system, and most of these kids do come from abuse," Montgomery said.

Adults who want to offer their homes as "safe houses" will be screened by the police. So far, 75 volunteers have signed on.

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Stephanie Hawco, Reporter
Terry Cantrell, Photographer
Brian Shrader, Web Editor

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